YET ANOTHER fine recording has been issued displaying the fine work Antal Dora'ti accomplished during his brief tenure as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, this one made up of relatively unfamiliar works and some outright discoveries from the pen of the eminently lovable Antoni'n Dvora'k. In superb digitally mastered sound are the Czech Suite, Op. 39, the Notturno for Strings, Op. 40, and the premiere recordings of the Prague Waltzes, the Polonaise in E-flat, and the Polka "For Prague Students" (London LDR-71024).
The Prague Waltzes are by no means as ingratiating as the somewhat better-known waltzes Dvora'k scored for strings (Op. 54), but they are unmistakably his, and certainly enjoyable in their own right. The Polonaise is quite stunning, and the especially folksy Polka is as endearing as could be. Dora'ti and the orchestra project all these "discoveries" with a great deal of affectionate enthusiasm as well as polish.
The Notturno, which Dvora'k decided to offer as an independent work for string orchestra after trying it out in two chamber works (one of them the splendid String Quintet with double bass), shines with unlabored sincerity in Dora'ti's hands, and the still too-little-known Czech Suite is downright delicious. An altogether delightful record, and Keith Clarke manages to impart some valuable information in his brief annotation.
Another striking Dvora'k "discovery" is his early Cello Concerto in A Minor: his first attempt, in 1865, at writing a concerto for any instrument. Dvora'k never orchestrated this work himself, and never published it. It came to light a little more than 50 years ago, and its premiere recording, with the new orchestration by the distinguished Dvora'k scholar Jarmil Burghauser (who affixed all those "B" numbers to Dvora'k's compositions), was issued only last year. Now it has been reissued in what is certain to be a more attractive format.
Milos Sa'dlo, the revered Czech cellist who celebrates his 70th birthday this April, made the recording, with the Czech Philharmonic under Va'clav Neumann. Supraphon originally brought it out in a two-disc set with the later and greater Concerto in B Minor and some shorter pieces--which may have put off collectors who already had favorite recordings of the B Minor Concerto by Rostropovich, Fournier, Gendron, et al. It is good news that Supraphon has issued the A Minor Concerto on its own now, so that more listeners will be encouraged to investigate it.
Filling out the disc (Supraphon 1110.2728 ZA) is the Polonaise in A Major for Cello and Piano, written at about the same time as the more extrovert polonaise in Dorati's orchestral package. Sadlo does nobly by both of these virtually unknown works, and all lovers of Dvora'k's music will surely find this handsomely recorded disc indispensable.
After the A Minor Cello Concerto, the least-known of Dvora'k's concertos is the earliest he did publish, the one for piano in G minor, Op. 33. Until recently this work was invariably performed and recorded (when given such attention at all) in the revised edition prepared after Dvora'k's death by Vile'm Kurz; lately, however, pianists have favored Dvora'k's original version, despite its allegedly clumsy writing for the soloist, and it is the original that has been recorded now by Radoslav Kvapil with the Brno State Philharmonic under Frantisek Ji'lek on another Supraphon disc (1110.2372).
Kvapil is the fine Czech pianist who recently recorded all of Dvora'k's music for piano solo; he is no less authoritative or persuasive in the concerto, though perhaps a little less fired-up than Sviatoslav Richter (Angel S-37239) or Rudolf Firkusny' (Turnabout TV 34691). Firkusny' was for years the only well-known pianist to champion the work, and brings a proprietary zeal to it; his two earlier recordings followed the Kurz edition, but this one, with the late Walter Susskind and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, is of the original version. So is Richter's, and it's a very compelling performance, though some listeners may find Carlos Kleiber's conducting a little too hard-driven; Ji'lek and Susskind both make more of the work's lyric character. In any event, choosing between these three recordings is an intriguing assignment; if other criteria fail, remember that the Firkusny'/Susskind costs only about half as much as the others, and it is a genuine bargain.